Marine Biology

, Volume 153, Issue 6, pp 1065–1074 | Cite as

Reproductive plasticity in mole crabs, Emerita brasiliensis, in sandy beaches with contrasting morphodynamics

  • Estela Delgado
  • Omar DefeoEmail author
Research Article


Ovarian macroscopical analysis, histological validation and field sampling procedures were used to evaluate the variability in reproductive traits of the mole crab Emerita brasiliensis Schmitt, 1935 (Decapoda: Hippidae) in two exposed sandy beaches of Uruguay with contrasting morphodynamics. All developmental stages involved in the complex life cycle exhibited lower abundance, individual size and temporal occurrence in a harsh reflective beach, compared with a more benign dissipative environment. In addition, this population showed more compressed events of the reproductive cycle (e.g oogenesis, encounter of potential mate and female parental care) and recruitment period. However, the beginning of the vitellogenesis, ovary maturity, male sexual differentiation and ending of spermatogenesis occurred at smaller sizes under dissipative conditions. These results disagree with the recent findings of delayed sexual maturity in dissipative beaches. We postulate that, in dissipative conditions, high food availability might allow an overlapping of reproductive and moulting processes, and thus females may reach optimum size and sexual maturity with fewer moults than in reflective beaches. Hence, reproductive responses must be considered not only in relation to environmental harshness, but also in the context of life history traits and their phylogenetic and allometric constraints.


Beach Sexual Differentiation Sandy Beach Carapace Length Ovigerous Female 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This paper is part of the PhD thesis of Estela Delgado. We are grateful to A. McLachlan, three anonymous referees and J. Grassle for the critical revision of the manuscript. We wish to express our gratitude to the “Benthic Ecology Group” of UNDECIMAR for field assistance. Facultad de Veterinaria, Instituto de Investigaciones Pesqueras and Área Acuicultura are acknowledged for providing facilities (Histology Laboratory). Financial support from CSIC, PDT (Project S/C/OP/07/49) and PEDECIBA is acknowledged.

Supplementary material

227_2007_879_MOESM1_ESM.doc (750 kb)
S1 Parameter estimates and associated statistics of the linearized carapace length-wet weight function for all developmental stage in both beaches (doc 750 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Facultad de Ciencias, Iguá 4225UNDECIMARMontevideoUruguay

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